From a church plant to an organized church in San Antonio

Moody prays laying hands-1An OPC mission work in San Antonio organized in a special service held February 10, 2017. Rev. Andrew Moody, who has served as the group’s church planter, was installed as its pastor. Elders Amit Kholsa and Thomas Roe and deacon Kyle Huizenga were ordained and installed.

About 100 people attended the service, including several Presbytery of the Southwest pastors, who participated in various ways.

Rev. Dr. Glen Clary (Providence OPC in Pflugerville, TX) preached from 1 Timothy 3:14-15 on “How to Behave in Church.” Referring to this and other texts in Paul’s letters to Timothy, he focused on three areas: worship, government, and discipline. He noted the priority of prayer in worship and how a minister must devote himself to preaching and teaching God’s Word. Worship must be done decently and in good order to reflect the character of God, whom we worship and who is with us when we worship. Church government should also be well-ordered because Christ governs the church by His word and Spirit. He does so through ordinary men who’ve been ordained to their offices and carry out their ministry under His dominion and direction. Finally, the church ought to be well disciplined because discipline is the means by which the Good Shepherd brings wandering sheep back into the fold.

Rev. Mark Sumpter (Regional Home Missionary for the Presbytery of the Southwest) exhorted the congregation to rely on God for discipleship strength in seven ways: 1) Be spiritually fervent in serving the Lord. 2) Be patient in enduring hardships. 3) Anticipate a variety of gifts in the body of Christ. 4) Remember to treat one another as gifts purchased by Christ’s blood. 5) Be eager to receive the preached Word with meekness. 6) Take up prayer and your post, eager to live out a witness for Christ. 7) Children and young people should realize they are being trained to make up the church of today as well as of tomorrow. 8) Make much of sin, but make more of Christ.

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Revs. Moody and Wagenmaker

In the administering of vows, Rev. Todd Wagenmaker (Covenant OPC in Ft. Worth, TX) addressed Pastor Moody, Rev. Bob Cannode (Providence OPC in Pflugerville, TX) spoke to the congregation, and Rev. Dr. Alan Story questioned the new elders and deacon. Rev. Andrew Moody prayed during the laying on of hands for the three officers.

Rev. Dr. Jim Cassidy (South Austin OPC) then gave the charge to the new office-bearers. Focusing on 1 Corinthians 4:1&2, he said, “Regard yourselves as servants and stewards.” He noted that being ordained is not a promotion, but a demotion as one goes from those being served to someone who serves. He acknowledged the authority of office-bearers, but reminded them it was not a license to lord it over others. He concluded by urging the men, “Be faithful servants.”

Out-of-town Presbytery visitors enjoyed a meal in the Moody home prior to the service, and all attendees were invited to a reception following it.

“Many people stayed for up to two hours after the service to fellowship,” Rev. Moody said.

Charter members of the congregation signed a special document prepared by local artist Maggie Gillikin.

“It is a 16 x 20” calligraphy that features Psalm 127:1 and Ephesians 2:19-22,” explains Rev. Moody. “It will be signed by our current members and framed to commemorate the Lord’s faithfulness in building His church.”

San Antonio Reformed Church began as a home Bible study in March of 2011. Its first worship service was held on October of 2011, and Pastor Moody was installed as an evangelist to continue his church planting work in May of 2012.

The group recently began renting a storefront space on the north side of San Antonio’s inner circle of freeways (8705 Botts Lane). Up to this point, the congregation has functioned under the oversight of elders from Grace OPC, which is about 20 minutes away. Grace has also provided financial support for the fledgling group.

“We have been blessed to have the session of Grace OPC oversee the life and ministry of the church for several years,” said Rev. Moody. “Now, the Presbytery has ordained and installed our own church officers.”

He adds, “This is a huge milestone for San Antonio Reformed Church. We are excited to see how the Lord will continue to grow His church and use us to glorify His name!”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the March 22, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

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A dangerous book

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Choosing the Good Portion is available from the OPC online store

Choosing the Good Portion: Women of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; edited by Patricia E. Clawson & Diane L. Olinger; published by The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; cloth, 470 pages; © 2016

 

This is a dangerous book. Like Proverbs 31, it can make women feel inferior if they begin to think they somehow don’t measure up. But we know that Proverbs 31, like all Scripture, is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) and Choosing the Good Portion is not only profitable, but also enjoyable and encouraging.

Yes, some of the women described in these stories seem almost superhuman, traveling to far countries and difficult situations, giving birth or raising children while husbands are distant or busy with other kingdom work. But if you read this book and come away feeling like a sub-par Christian, you’ve missed the point. The point isn’t how great these women were, but how great their God was in their lives and is in yours.

The title, Choosing the Good Portion, comes from the biblical account of Martha and Mary, which like Proverbs 31 can be dangerous. Am I a Martha or a Mary? I’ve personally struggled with the question for years. More than a decade ago, I wrote a poem confessing my affinity with Martha and my longing to be like Mary. This book is based on the premise that the featured women chose to first receive Christ’s teaching and then serve His church.

Editors Patricia E. Clawson and Diane L. Olinger deserve high praise for their excellent work in compiling and constructing these stories, as well as each writing one of them. Pat’s introduction explains the rationale and process that led to the book, while Diane’s afterword encourages readers to ask themselves: Am I Choosing the Good Portion?

Fifty-five women wrote these stories about ninety-three women who invested themselves in Christ’s kingdom, specifically as it has been expressed through the eighty-year history of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).

What a job it must have been to determine who to write about and the women to write the stories! But what wisdom (if not pure practicality) to tackle the project with broad delegation. In the hands of different editors, the book could well have fallen into a boring litany of what began to sound like similar stories with only the names changed. As it is, the different styles and author voices add richness and variety that capture and keep reader interest.

While OPC readers will find the stories fascinating and recognize many familiar names, Christians from any federation will appreciate the accounts of sacrificial service for the Lord.

How wonderfully the Lord sustained women like Debbie Dortzbach, four months pregnant when kidnapped with Anna Strikwerda from a medical clinic by armed Eritrean guerillas in 1974. Debbie survived the ordeal, which included witnessing Anna die from a gunshot to the head.

Eritrea had long been an inhospitable mission field. Bandits, armed with AR-15s, nearly attacked the Francis and Arlena Mahaffy family, who arrived in 1944 and stayed 22 years. Arlena’s seven children were born in primitive and unsterile conditions. Feeding them involved boiling sour and dirty milk as well as soaking vegetables in chlorinated water before cooking them with the stalks.

Other stories describe women who served the church on the home front by giving time, money, or sound advice. Women like Betty Wallace, who helped found Franklin Square OPC in New York and taught Sunday school for many years. She hosted missionaries in her home and viewed life as a wonderful adventure: “Any better, I couldn’t stand it!”

Not all the profiles focus on positive productivity. The women are portrayed as real people with human frailties. Donna McIlhenny bravely pens a transparent narrative about how alcohol helped her cope with stresses few of us will ever experience—until it stopped being her helper and became her tyrant. She eventually overcame her addiction, but this story shows that being a Christian doesn’t automatically deliver a person from deep and long-lasting struggles.

Choosing the Good Portion could be a dangerous book, but only if you read it with a focus on the human instead of the divine.

The above book review by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 43 of the March 1, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

 

The path to ministry from Michigan to New Zealand

benedictionOn December 10, 2016, Aaron Warner was ordained in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ) and installed as the minister of the Reformed Church of Palmerston North. Rev. Warner was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a 2015 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

About 100 people attended the ordination and installation, which took place at 1:30 on a warm Saturday afternoon during New Zealand’s summer. Rev. Albert Couperus, a recently-ordained Mid-America graduate, led the service.

“Albert was a classmate with me at the Seminary and spent all three years convincing me to come to New Zealand,” said Rev. Warner.

Another Mid-America graduate, Rev. Andre Holtslag (who supervised Aaron’s vicariate at the Reformed Church of Dovedale in Christchurch), preached from 2 Timothy 1:1-14. He focused on the essence of ministry revealed in five remembrances: prayer, fellowship, discipleship, preaching, and Jesus Christ.

Just as verse 3 notes Paul’s constant prayer for Timothy, the minister and congregation are called to pray continually for each other. Paul’s longing to see Timothy, expressed in verse 4, reflects the joy of fellowship believers can experience. Verse 5 relates Timothy’s godly upbringing and indicates the necessity to disciple others. In verse 6, Paul reminds Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (NASB). That gift was the calling to preach the Word. Rev. Holtslag encouraged Aaron to spend time in the Word so that he would be ready to preach it. He drew the final point from 2 Timothy 2:8, when Paul urged Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ.” A minister must always remember Christ in his personal life and in his preaching.

Rev. Michael Flinn, a retired minister and elder at Palmerston North, led the ordination section of the service. His son, Daniel Flinn, led a concluding portion of the service. He welcomed to the podium elders from several visiting churches, who brought greetings from their congregations and expressed wishes for God’s blessings. He also read letters from many other congregations without representatives present.

The Flinns have a Mid-America connection as Daniel planned to begin studies there in the fall of 2017, and his brother, Josh, graduated in 2016. Josh also persuaded Aaron to consider ministry in New Zealand, particularly at Palmerston North (which in on the North Island), and is now serving his vicariate at the Reformed Church of Nelson (on the South Island).

Aaron’s journey to ministry in New Zealand, which encompassed far more than moving his family to another country, began many years ago. He explains that God used Rev. Arthur Besteman, his former pastor in Michigan, “in a substantial way” in his life, and he made his public profession at a young age.

Having little desire for further education after high school, Aaron entered an electrician apprenticeship. Two years later, he shadowed a missionary in Toronto for a weekend and began to feel called to the mission field. But the prospect of completing both undergraduate and graduate degrees was daunting.

“I decided instead to invest myself in the church and other programs. I went on several short-term mission trips, led junior high youth group, and did a mentorship program for men dealing with substance abuse,” he said. “I had hoped these things would satisfy the hunger I had for working in ministry without all the schooling.”

Still, he continued to feel the tug toward more formal ministry and its prerequisite education. During a mission trip to Trinidad, a minister heard one of Aaron’s lectures to young people and suggested he consider ministry.

“He did not know that this had been already heavy on my heart,” Aaron said. After his return, he spoke to his own minister, who encouraged him to pursue the internal call he was feeling. He began university classes with a view toward attending seminary.

On that same trip to Trinidad, Aaron had become acquainted with Audra, a fellow team member who shared his passion for missions and interest in other cultures. The two were married in 2008 and blessed with their first child a year later.

Being a non-traditional student and caring for a family was not easy, but Aaron graduated from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a minor in philosophy. His plan to attend seminary, however, was put on hold.

charge to ministerWhen the Warners approached their church council for assistance, the elders expressed concern about their college debt and their anticipated second child. The council asked them to take off a year or more to try to pay down their debt.

“At first, it was difficult for us,” Aaron said, “but we soon realized the wisdom of our elders.”

Over the next two years, Aaron worked at an automatic car wash, drying cars. He took an online class from Mid-America to determine his ability to handle seminary level course work. It went well. He began full-time studies in 2012 and graduated in 2015.

The couple’s third child was born while Aaron was in seminary, and their fourth child was born in New Zealand, while Aaron served his vicariate at Dovedale. (The RCNZ requires its ministers to serve a year-long internship as a vicar in an established congregation under the supervision of an ordained minister and elders.)

When Aaron entered seminary, he and Audra had a goal of doing mission work. “New Zealand was not even a thought in our minds until I met Albert,” he said. “He helped us understand the need for pastors in New Zealand.”

By the time the Warner family arrived in Christchurch, seven out of the 20 churches had no full-time pastor. Some had been without a minister for several years. If ministers preparing to retire were not replaced, the federation could face empty pulpits in half its churches. Two of the three existing church plants had no minister.

Although Aaron and Audra realized they would miss family and friends in the United States and regretted living so far from their children’s grandparents, they came to believe that their struggles were well worth enduring to help God’s people in New Zealand.

After completing his vicariate, Aaron sustained his preliminary examination on July 8, 2016, making him eligible for call within the RCNZ. Two churches extended calls to him prior to the ten-week deadline. He accepted the call to Palmerston North on September 22, and passed a final examination on November 4 & 5.

laying on handsHis ordination on December 10 concluded his eleven-year seminary odyssey and marked the beginning of the formal ministry toward which the Spirit had nudged him so many years ago.

As the Warners adjust to cultural, geographical, and federational differences, they find Kiwis friendly and God faithful.

Aaron shared his personal goals. “In these first years, I hope to increase in my prayer life,” he said. “I hope to be shaped more by God’s word, so as to be a better shepherd to my family (both immediate and church). I hope and pray that God would strengthen me to the immense task that He and the church have called me to.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-12 of the March 1, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal

Annual gathering provides fellowship and teaching for pastors and wives

2016 group-croppedFor the past several years, pastors and wives from Canadian Reformed and United Reformed churches in western North America have gathered for the Western Ministerial Conference (WMC), which many participants describe as more of a retreat.

Part of the relaxed feeling may arise from the conference’s scenic location at Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center in Sumas, WA. But the atmosphere also differs from ecclesiastical meetings because wives attend with their pastor husbands and the fellowship crosses federational boundaries.

Rev. Brain Cochran (Redeemer Reformation URC; Regina, SK) and his wife, Julie, have attended the WMC for the last five years.  He says, “It is a wonderful opportunity for strengthening our ecumenical ties as sister denominations. I’ve grown in my appreciation for the CanRC and in trust and thankfulness for my brothers who are serving in our sister denomination.”

Conference organizer Rev. Ben Schoof (Maranatha CanRC; Surrey, BC) explains who is invited to attend: “All pastors and missionaries and their wives of Regional Synod West of the Canadian Reformed church (Manitoba, British Columbia, Denver, and Washington state) plus any URCNA pastors in the same area.”

According to Rev. Schoof, the retreat aspect is the first intended goal of organizers. “It is a time for pastors and their wives to get away, to recharge their minds and strength and souls.” The WMC “allows ministerial colleagues to get to know each other, reconnect with each other,” and experience fellowship on many levels.

A secondary goal is for learning. “Each time we have a knowledgeable keynote speaker on a topic applicable for life and work in the ministry,” he says. “Often there will be workshops specifically for the wives.”

This year the Langley, Cloverdale, and Surrey CanRCs (Classis Pacific West) organized the Ministerial with the assistance of New Westminster and Cloverdale URCs. The approximately 50 pastors and wives, some who brought along infants, about evenly represented the two federations. The time frame of October 25-27 allowed attendees to enjoy fall weather as well as good food and creation’s beauty.

“The venue and the hospitality are amazing,” Cecilia Vandevelde says. “It’s lovely to be fed with the finest of food, and take advantage of our free time to do some hiking on the trails that are on the property, or rest on the trestle bridges and watch the creek flow past.”

Cecilia and her husband, Rev. Steve Vandevelde (Carman East CanRC; Carman, MB) have attended the conference for four years. While they love the hospitality, they also enjoy the interaction with colleagues during free times and meals. “It’s a safe environment for us to discuss and talk about the hard things that can come along in ministry (either in our homes or in our congregations) and support each other in these things,” she says. “We are both so glad that retired ministers and their wives come too, as they are a wealth of information and encouragement for us.”

As a young couple, the Schoofs are also grateful for the opportunity to learn from more experienced pastors and their wives. Rev. Schoof most enjoys “relaxing and recharging, spending time away from my work, and with my wife, and getting reacquainted with or getting to know my ministerial colleagues.” He adds, “My wife from her side very much enjoys getting to know the other pastors’ wives and learning from them how to manage some of the issues and difficulties that come from being a pastor’s wife.”

Attendees always experience such retreat aspects, but speakers and topics vary greatly from year to year. Rev. Dick Moes, pastor of Surrey Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Surrey, BC, says, “Every year the speeches make each WMC special and unique.”

This year’s speaker, Kevin Hoogstad, from Christian Counselling in Burlington, ON, enlightened attendees on the science of the teenage brain. He also administered a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test and applied it to aspects of life such as ministry and marriage.

“His speeches on the teenage brain were very insightful,” Rev. Moes says. “I wish I had heard this material much earlier in my life.”

Rev. Cochran says, “He helped everyone better understand teen culture and how we can engage our teens and disciple them.” He found the Myers-Briggs tests “fascinating” and adds, “It turns out my wife and I are almost opposites on the MBTI but complement each other well. He used it to help us understand how we can better interact with our church members and fellow office bearers.”

“I think everyone enjoyed the Myers-Briggs personality test,” Rev. Moes says. “It gave us a little more insight into what kind of personality we have with its strengths and weaknesses.”

Another unique feature of this year’s ministerial was a presentation from a pastor and wife, who shared their personal story of his struggle with clinical depression. “It was a very moving talk,” says Rev. Cochran, “and I felt very privileged and blessed to hear it.”

In some ways, the WMC functions as a retreat for couples. “The ministerial is definitely a highlight of the year for us,” Cecilia says. “Along with everything else, it’s also a time for us to focus on each other and our marriage. The ministerial is busy, to be sure, but there are moments in between where we can have a chance to talk together and touch base with each other and pray with and for each other.”

Rev. Moes, who served for a second year on the conference’s organizing committee, says, “Since the goals and purpose of the conference are first, warm fellowship and relaxation, and second, inspiring speeches, I think this year’s event was once again a success.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the January 18, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

 

Rev. Jeff DeBoer examined at Classis Central US

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Revs. Oord and DeBoer

When Classis Central US met on September 12 & 13, 2016, a significant item on the agenda was the colloquium doctum for Rev. Jeff De Boer. But before that conversation began, a question was raised regarding its necessity. A little background helps explain Rev. De Boer’s path to that moment.

A 2000 graduate from Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Rev. De Boer was ordained in the RCUS and served the congregation in Garner, IA, for seven years before attending law school.

“I realized I lacked the ability to effectively connect with and minister the gospel to people who were not part of the congregation I pastored,” he said. “I’d never been outside the bubble of the Reformed world. So I went to law school to experience a bigger world.”

Although he thoroughly enjoyed his legal education, he began to question his future only a year later, when he received a call to a URCNA congregation. “I did not take the call, but it was the beginning of a great deal of soul searching that resulted in leaving law school.”

While Rev. De Boer was in law school, he and his family attended a PCA in North Liberty, IA, where he occasionally preached. After the church’s pastor resigned and some families left, the congregation expressed an interest in him as its new pastor. The PCA presbytery examined him, he accepted a call to North Liberty, and was ordained in the PCA.

Now employed as Director of Enrollment Management at Mid-America, he and his family attend Community URC in Schererville, IN. His wife, Karen, and their children became members soon after the family moved to the area, and Rev. De Boer assists with preaching and other aspects of pastoral ministry. He also volunteers as a chaplain for the St. John Police Department. The consistory of Community URC brought the request for his colloquium doctum to Classis Central US.

The question regarding the need for an examination was raised because Rev. De Boer’s work at the Seminary seems more administrative than ministerial in nature. Following a discussion that included employment requirements and URCNA emeritation policies, Classis proceeded with the colloquium.

Rev. Nick Alons (Lynwood URC) examined Rev. De Boer in the area of practica. This highly personal section focused on the pastor’s relationship with God and others. Questions additionally sought insight into his qualifications for ministry and his perception of the office. His views on liturgics, homiletics, pastoral care, and evangelism were also addressed.

“After the exam, it was clear to me that he has a real heart for equipping pastors for the rigors of ministry,” Rev. Alons said. “It was also clear that he understands the urgency for mission work to be carried out by the local congregation.”

Other examiners included Rev. Bradd Nymeyer (Sioux Center URC) on church polity, Rev. Tom Wetselaar (Immanuel URC; DeMotte, IN) on confessional knowledge, Rev. Harold Miller (Covenant Reformed; Kansas City, MO) on ethics, and Rev. Doug Barnes (Covenant Reformed; Pella, IA) on reformed doctrine. Rev. De Boer successfully sustained his colloquium doctum and was declared eligible for call within the URCNA.

Community URC has called Rev. De Boer as Associate Pastor, viewing him as on loan to Mid-America and the St. John Police Department. The consistory oversees his work and encourages his continued participation in church life.

“He is very active in our church,” said Rev. James Oord, pastor of Community URC. “Rev. De Boer has already been working with our church to develop a program where each seminarian who attends Community is paired with an older, experienced man for one-on-one mentoring. He serves as a member of our Discipleship Committee and is currently teaching a Sunday School class on ‘The Art of Neighboring.’ ”

Rev. De Boer recently became the St. John Police Department’s first chaplain under its newly-instituted program. Having found it rewarding to serve as a police chaplain in North Liberty, Rev. De Boer volunteered for similar work in St. John.

The Department sees the new chaplain program as a link in its efforts to unite the community and police, through participation in some events and provision of necessary assistance. Chaplains also provide counseling and comfort to officers and families experiencing crisis.

“Most of my work will be with the officers,” Rev. De Boer said, “although there will also be occasional, public functions.”

Rev. De Boer’s responsibilities at Community URC may continue to develop.

We are exploring ways to grow this role, always respecting his time commitment and calling to Mid-America,” Rev. Oord said. “We see Rev. De Boer as being very gifted in the areas of discipleship and evangelism and we hope that he can be an encouragement and blessing to our church culture in those areas.”

In addition to conducting the colloquium doctum for Rev. De Boer, Classis Central approved three overtures. Two from Sioux Center URC dealt with synodical procedure and will go to Synod 2018. The first recommended the addition of an Appendix 7 to the Church Order, which would provide guidelines for appeals. The second overture suggested adopting a classical rotation for hosting synods, which takes into account two recently-added classes.

The third approved overture, from Immanuel URC in DeMotte, established a classical church assistance fund. Similar to funds in other classes within the federation, the Classis Church Assistance Fund (CCAF) will provide assistance at the discretion of Classis to churches requesting financial support. Requests for assistance must be made in writing, but will not be published publicly. Individual churches determine their level and frequency of contributions, designating them for the CCAF.

Delegates advised several churches on discipline matters. One case not discussed in executive session sought advice to “exclude” a member, a newly-formed category in Pastoral Advice subsequent to the 2016 Synod. Because the new categories are not yet part of the Church Order, Classis eventually suggested the church move toward the second step of discipline instead.

One advice request questioned whether a member, not licensed to exhort in the URCNA, may exhort in a non-NAPARC church. This led to a discussion regarding the way licensure relates to exhorting in churches that do not belong to NAPARC.

Rev. Sam Perez informed delegates about the Grace Reformed church plant in Jersey City. Rev. Ruben Sernas introduced himself and spoke about his work with El Pacto de Gracia, the church plant in Chicago Heights, IL.

Delegates heard fraternal greetings from Rev. G.I. Williamson (Presbytery of the Dakotas of the OPC), Rev. Brian Janssen (Iowa Presbytery of the PCA), Rev. Jonathan Haney (Midwest Presbytery of the RPCNA), Rev. Herman Van Stedum (South Central Classis of the RCUS), and Mr. Jacob Kuik (Classis Manitoba of the CanRC).

This was the first time Sioux Center URC hosted Classis in its building. Rev. Spencer Aalsburg (Christ Reformed Church; Sioux Falls, SD) chaired the meeting, and Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC; Beecher, IL) served as vice-chairman. Rev. Talman Wagenmaker functions as Classis Clerk.

Christ Reformed Church in Sioux Falls was slated to convene the next meeting of Classis Central US on April 3, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12 & 13 of the November 20, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Classis Michigan declares URCNA candidate

Arjen Vreugdenil
Arjen Vreugdenhil

When Classis Michigan of the URCNA met on October 11, 2016, the primary item on the agenda was the candidacy examination of Arjen Vreugdenhil. According to Classis Clerk Greg Lubbers, delegates took most of the day to conduct a through exam before determining “without dissent” that Mr. Vreugdenhil had sustained all sections of the examination.

“I questioned Arjen in Bible Knowledge, and he was exceptional,” said Rev. Matthew Nuiver, pastor of Faith URC in West Olive, MI, “and he was just that through the rest of the exam as well.”

Because Vreugdenhil graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Mike Deckinga (representing the Seminary at Classis as its Vice-President of Advancement) was an interested observer. “Arjen readily provided answers to the many questions that were asked of him, making evident his love for Christ and his desire to serve him as a minister of the Word,” he said. “I was thankful to witness this event and I join, with many others, in prayer that God will make clear His will for Arjen and his family.”

While the Vreugdenhil family awaits God’s will regarding a pastoral call, they remain living in Lansing, IL, where Arjen is teaching at Lansing Christian School.

“This period of waiting is exciting, as we look forward to what the Lord has in store,” he said. “It is also a bit unsatisfactory to just sit tight and wait. I am glad I have work for the next few months; but even though I enjoy teaching, I am looking forward to fulfill my calling in the ministry, for which I have been preparing in the past several years.”

Arjen taught at the middle and high school levels in the Netherlands prior to arriving in the US to marry Jodi in 2001. He taught physics at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI, for nine years before attending Mid-America.

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Rev. Tuinstra questions Arjen

During his seminary years, the family grew to include three young sons and the Vreugdenhils’ membership remained at Bethel URC in Jenison, MI (the church that requested his candidacy exam). Pastor Wm. Jason Tuinstra explained that the distance between church and seminary was not that great and didn’t preclude continuing supervision and support.

“Early on in Arjen’s seminary education, the consistory stayed in contact with the professors at Mid-America to give their input about his progress,” he said. Elders visited with Arjen at the Seminary and in his home as well as when he returned to the Grand Rapids area. “He also provided pulpit supply for us on numerous occasions, which has given the consistory a chance to observe his progress. Besides this encouragement and oversight, our council was very faithful to make sure that his physical needs were met.”

At its October meeting, Classis Michigan also conducted routine matters and offered advice on discipline cases. Delegates heard reports from Trinity, Dutton, and Eastmanville URCs, evidencing what Clerk Lubbers called “the on-going work of the Lord” in those churches.

“The reports emphasized the continual building of the Kingdom of God through the faithful preaching of the gospel and the proper administration of the sacraments,” he wrote. “In addition, the healthy organic life of these respective congregations was noted as displayed in the various societies, studies, and activities.”

Bethany URC in Wyoming, MI, hosted the 48th meeting of Classis, with Rev. Casey Freswick serving as chairman and Rev. Mike Schout as vice-chairman. Grace URC was scheduled to convene the next meeting on March 14, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the November 30, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal

Caffeinated Thoughts Briefing percolates Christian worldview

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Brian Myers with Dr. E. Calvin Beisner

The Caffeinated Thoughts Briefing, a Christian worldview conference for students and adults on October 15, 2016, in Johnston, IA, featured an impressive line-up of speakers and panelists.

“The conference speakers sounded a clarion call to the church not to retreat, but to stand firm in their public witness as Western culture grows increasingly hostile to God’s truth and Christ’s lordship over every area of life,” said Mark Van Der Molen, an attorney and URCNA elder from DeMotte, IN, who attended the event.

The Briefing format allowed a half-hour for each speech, followed by a 30-minute panel discussion on that subject. Shane Vander Hart, founder and editor of the Caffeinated Thoughts website/blog and co-host of the Caffeinated Thoughts radio program, explained how panel dialogue augmented the lectures. “We were able to drill down a little more on the topics covered, and it allowed attendees to interact with the speakers.”

The conference began with Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesperson for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, describing “A Christian Worldview.” The subsequent Worldview panel consisted of Dr. Beisner and Rev. Mike Ericson, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church, which meets for worship at the Johnston Lions Club building where the conference was held.

Ahmad cropped
Mike Ahmad

Mike Ahmed spoke about “Responding to Islam” and participated in the follow-up discussion. Ahmad, who was an acquaintance of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, narrowly escaped death when he declined an invitation to the military parade at which Islamic fundamentalist officers assassinated the president. Among those in close proximity to Sadat during the assassination, 38 were wounded and 11 killed. That experience led Ahmed to question his Muslim faith. After moving to the United States, he converted to Christianity and has helped pastor churches in North Dakota and Iowa. He often visits Cairo, where he assists with planting churches in Egyptian homes.

Sue Thayer
Sue Thayer

Sue Thayer addressed “A Culture of Life” from her unique perspective as someone who managed a Planned Parenthood clinic for nearly 18 years. She is founder of Cornerstone for Life Pregnancy Resource Center and a lead strategist for Iowa Right to Life. For the past 26 years, she has parented over 130 foster children. Others who participated in the related panel included Jennifer Bowen and Tim Overlin. Bowen is CEO of Iowa Right to Life and serves on the board of directors for And Then There Were None, a national ministry that assists anyone desiring to leave the abortion industry. Overlin is the Executive Director for Personhood IOWA and speaks about bringing the church back to life.

Dr. Robert Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, discussed “Responding to the LGBTQ Agenda.” He is the author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics and co-author of Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. Gagnon’s articles have appeared in various scholarly journals and theological dictionaries. He also has been quoted in or written for many popular magazines and news outlets.

“Dr. Robert Gagnon powerfully demonstrated that the LGBTQ movement’s inversion of moral authority is not simply some culture war issue ‘out there,’” Mark Van Der Molen said, “but the Truth of the Word and the church’s very confession of the lordship of Christ are at stake.”

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Dr. Robert Gagnon

Joining Dr. Gagnon as panel participants were Dr. Nathan Oppman and Kelvey Vander Hart. Dr. Oppman serves on staff of The FAMiLY Leader, a public policy organization located in Urbandale, IA, which seeks to strengthen families by inspiring Christ-like leadership in home, church, and government. He previously worked for the Family Research Council and the South Carolinians for Responsible Government Foundation. Kelvey Vander Hart is a social work major at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, MO, and a contributor to Caffeinated Thoughts and Hypeline.org. She has served as a student ministries intern and ministry leader at Grace Church in Des Moines, IA.

The final Briefing lecture featured Shane Vander Hart, speaking on “Our Religious Liberty.” He has served as dean of students for a Christian school and spent 20 years in youth ministry. He frequently speaks and writes about politics and policies and owns 4:15 Communications, a social media and communications consulting firm. The Religious Liberty panel also included Rev. Michael Demastus, pastor of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, who has been active in the culture war and is often quoted on current and political issues in local and national publications.

Brian Myers, senior contributor at Caffeinated Thoughts and co-host of its radio program, organized this year’s event and served as emcee.

“I was pleased with the conference in terms of the incredible amount of information that was presented on some crucial subjects,” he said. “We always have a ‘content rich’ event, and our goal is that the attendees leave having learned a lot. This year’s event was exceptional in that regard.”

About 70 people attended the Caffeinated Briefing. Early registration was $20, while students paid only $15. Late registrants and walk-ins paid $30. Primary funding of the conference comes through a sponsorship program. Donors at different levels receive a variety of perks, including conference tickets, booth space, as well as website, brochure and/or radio advertising.

Caffeinated Thoughts was founded in 2006, and the first Briefing was held in 2014. Last year’s event focused on politics and featured three presidential candidates. While topics vary from year to year, the goal remains the same.

“Our goal has always been to provide those who attend with relevant information about issues that concern our readers and listeners,” Vander Hart said. “I think each year we’ve accomplished that.”

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Brian Myers and Shane Vander Hart

Caffeinated Thoughts addresses culture, current events, faith and politics with news articles, news analysis and opinion pieces written from a Christian and conservative point of view.

Caffeinated Thoughts Radio airs on The Truth Network, KTIA 99.3 FM in Des Moines, on Saturdays at 8 AM and 6 PM (Central). Broadcasts can be live streamed from thetruthnetwork.com or accessed from iTunes.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6-8 of the November 30, 2016, issues of Christian Renewal.

Godly dominion versus environmentalism

Cal Beisner
Cal Beisner

On October 16, 2016, E. Calvin Beisner spoke at Trinity Presbytery Reformed Church in Johnston, IA, on Godly Dominion versus Environmentalism. Beisner founded the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a network of theologians, scientists, economists, and scholars promoting biblical earth stewardship, economic development for the poor, and the proclamation of the gospel.

Beisner began by describing two vivid memories from his childhood in Calcutta. The beauty of a red flowering vine in the courtyard of his apartment complex awakened within him his love for God’s wonderful creation. This second memory imprinted within him the devastating effects of poverty. Because his mother was paralyzed from a virus, a native woman cared for him while his father worked. As he was led several blocks to that house during early morning hours, he stepped over the dead bodies of poor people who had died during the night.

The October 16 lecture focused on threats springing from a denial of doctrines found in Genesis 1:27–28. Beisner defined godly dominion, or biblical earth stewardship, as “people made in the image of God, reflecting God’s own creativity, working together to enhance the fruitfulness, beauty, and safety of the earth for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors.” He explored what it means to live out the dominion mandate, how the environmental movement undermines that mandate, and how to recover it.

“Essentially, environment means everything,” he said, describing its etymological derivation from the word surroundings. Therefore, “environmentalism means everythingism,” which he equated with totalitarianism. “Environmentalism…is inherently totalitarian in nature.”

Beisner urged believers to use biblical terms for biblical activities, noting that the adjective “godly” distinguishes dominion from the “careless, rapacious, abusive activity” some wrongly associate with the term.

A biblical view flows from Genesis 1. Verse 27 reveals the essence of man: God’s image, male and female. Verse 28 expands on the mission of man: to multiply and fill the earth, to subdue and rule it.

“But these two ideas, multiplication and dominion, are the nemeses of environmentalism,” he said. “Even many Christian environmentalists,” who advocate what they call “creation care,” undermine the message of Genesis 1:28 by borrowing “without discernment, from a broader worldview,” which they fail to recognize as part of a “spiritual world war.”

Some of this stems from applying a faulty interpretation of Genesis 2:15 to Genesis 1:28. Beisner views this reinterpretation as involving two mistakes: assuming the command was for the entire earth rather than only the Garden, and restricting the meaning of the Hebrew verb to “serve,” which it means only when its object is personal, not impersonal.

“They insist that ‘serve and keep’ in Genesis 2:15 restates and controls the meaning of ‘subdue and have dominion’ in Genesis 1:28—despite the fact that the verbs have very different meanings.”

The threats to liberty and property

Beisner believes the environmental movement, with over a million organizations worldwide and billions of dollars spent on marketing its message, is the greatest threat to the survival of Western civilization with its rule of law, government by consent, and protection of “God-given rights to life, to religious and civil and economic liberty, and to property.”

The threat is particularly dangerous for four reasons: 1) It is not external like war or terrorism, but internal, and perceived as friend rather than foe. 2) It speaks to the inherent spiritual yearnings of human souls. 3) It incorporates strengths from other threats (Marxism’s utopian vision, humanism scientific façade, and jihad’s religious fervor). 4) It encompasses the “vague spiritualities” that have already overwhelmed secular humanism and threaten the Christian faith.

What some have called the Dark Green Religion “divines and resacralizes nature and so subjugates mankind to her, turning upside down the order revealed in Scripture,” Beisner said. “The worldwide environmental movement today unites pagan religion, ecological utopianism, and socialist politics and economics to create a vision for a global government that is the conscious goal of those who lead it…a fundamental transformation of the values, institutions, and practices on which modern civilization has rested.”

Beisner noted that Darwinism attacked Genesis 1:27, man created in the image of God, with tragic results to modern society. “We largely lost that battle, and the sad consequences are obvious all around us,” he said. “Our response to environmentalism’s attack on Genesis 1:28 today must be better.” From 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, he urged Christians to be “wise, courageous, and powerful in spiritual warfare, tearing down ideological strongholds and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

Quoting many statistics, he showed that the last two hundred years have brought huge improvements to the human condition. Environmentalism threatens to “trap the poor in poverty and rob people of property rights” while expanding “oppressive government” and “weakening sovereign states” by pushing toward global government. Although industry provides the benefits of better living, many environmentalists promote abandoning industrial civilization and living ‘in harmony with nature’ as they mistakenly think human ancestors did. “For our ancestors,” Beisner said, “nature was to be feared because it hadn’t been subdued.”

The threat to science

Science is one of the most important tools in fulfilling the biblical mandate of godly dominion, but it is being undermined by irrationalism. Beisner contrasted the rationality of “real science” with the mysticism of “post-normal science.” Science from a biblical perspective views God as a rational being who created the universe and reveals himself increasingly to humans.

According to Beisner, post-normal science is “postmodern deconstructionism” applied to science. This results in researchers who go “through the motions” of scientific inquiry but with “preconceived conclusions to serve a predetermined agenda.”

To describe that agenda, he quoted from an influential professor of climate change, who wrote that “‘self-evidently’ dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth-seeking…scientists—and politicians—must trade truth for influence….. The function of climate change…is not about stopping climate chaos. Instead, we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change…to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come.”

Beisner said, “The global warming juggernaut is how environmentalists are promoting both socialism and global government…. And because it draws conclusions based on climate models regardless of real-world observations, it is also as irrational as pagan mysticism.”

The threat to faith

The threat to the Christian faith attacks the gospel and Christian ethics, biblical authority, and the pro-life movement.

Many books by environmentalists reduce the gospel from the truth of Christ’s complete atonement and present reign to the mere concept of loving God by caring for the earth.

“It’s true that if you love God you will try to take good care of the earth—and I encourage you to do just that—but that’s not gospel,” Beisner said. “It’s law, and law cannot give life.”

Although some books promoting “creation care” get the gospel right, they present environmental practices as “moral imperatives,” which replace or contradict God’s commands with traditions of man. He said, “So-called ‘Christian environmentalism’ can become a new legalism.”

To demonstrate how the greening of the church undermines the Bible’s authority, Beisner related his experience as a lecturer for “Care of Creation,” the 2012 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Other plenary speakers, two New Testament scholars, were shocked that he challenged widespread environmental beliefs. They accepted without question that nearly 100 percent of climate scientists affirm catastrophic global warming, but that idea is based on an extremely limited and prejudiced survey.

To show how “creation care” organizations threaten the pro-life, Beisner explained how the largest and most influential organization, the Evangelical Environmental Network (heavily funded by the pro-abortion and pro-population-control Rockefeller Brothers Fund) promotes emissions controls as being pro-life. Based on how members of Congress voted regarding emissions, it praised those who voted for controls as pro-life, even if their record was 100 percent pro-abortion. The pro-life commitment of those who voted against controls was questioned, even if their record was 100 percent pro-life.

In response, the Cornwall Alliance prepared a statement “Protecting the Unborn and the Pro-Life Movement from a Misleading Environmental Tactic,” but the EEN campaign continues and increases. Still, a recent news article reported that despite millions of dollars poured into attempts to “green” American evangelism, the effort has failed. That failure was attributed largely to the truths about climate change communicated by the Cornwall Alliance, which does so with very little funding.

Beisner concluded with a call to spiritual arms: 1) Know and teach the Word, 2) Do the Word, 3) Support the Cornwall Alliance, and 4) Pray.

He explained how doing the Word might include helping your neighbors through local stewardship programs such as cleaning up lots, creating community gardens, or assisting with energy-saving improvements. But noting that “America is already pretty clean and safe by historical standards and compared with poor countries around the world,” Beisner encouraged listeners to consider assisting the poor in developing countries. One way is to help them resist pressure to adopt policies that would slow or reverse economic improvement.

“Finally,” he concluded, “we all need to pray for each other and for the church around the world to gain, and to put into practice, sound understanding of the biblical, theological, scientific, economic, and other aspects of godly dominion, to reclaim the blessings of Genesis 1:27-28.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8, 9 & 39 of the November 9, 2016, issue of  Christian Renewal.

PRTS Conference on the Christian Worldview

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L-R: Brian Cosby, Gerald (Jerry) Bilkes, Charles Barrett, Michael Barrett, Joel Beeke, Sherif Atef Fahim, and Mark Kelderman

What do we mean when we speak of a worldview? At a conference in August of 2016, Dr. Joel Beeke defined it as how “we see and evaluate everything” with “assumptions that control how we think and feel and act.” A worldview, he said, is “not just a pair of glasses or contact lenses that we can take off or remove at will, but more like our eyes themselves, which are an organic part of who we are.”

Dr. Beeke was one of several speakers at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary’s eighth annual conference, The Beauty and Glory of the Christian Worldview. About 400 people attended the event, held at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids, MI, from August 25-27, 2016.

Dr. Charles Barrett began the conference by addressing A Worldview for Pilgrims. In separate lectures, Dr. Derek Thomas spoke on two aspects of the Christian worldview: The Trinity and Daily Life. He summarized the latter by saying, “It’s realizing who Jesus Christ is and who you are in Jesus Christ that is the key and the secret to powerful, victorious Christian living.”

Other aspects of the Christian worldview included Dr. David Murray on Human Identity and Rev. Brian Cosby regarding Suffering. Attendees could choose from two breakout sessions: Rev. Mark Kelderman on A Christian Worldview of Sexuality or Dr. Charles Barrett’s Viewing This World by Following Jesus into the Next.

Jubilee
The Jubilee Women’s Ensemble

The blended voices of the Jubilee Women’s Ensemble provided special music to open the Friday evening session. In his speech on The Puritan Worldview, Dr. Joel Beeke spoke of how the Puritans took Calvinistic doctrines and applied them to every area of life, bringing “vital, Reformed, experiential, confessional piety” to the average person in the pew. He identified “one great truth that illuminated” the Puritan worldview as “God’s sovereignty, and more importantly, God’s fatherly sovereignty in Christ.” Friday’s session concluded as Rev. Kelderman moderated a Question and Answer session with a panel of speakers and one PRTS student, Sherif Atef Fahim.

Attendees were welcome to attend a Saturday morning prayer meeting, which was followed by lectures about two additional aspects of the Christian Worldview: Dr. Michael Barrett on The Old Testament and Dr. Jerry Bilkes on The Great Commission.

In a video overview of the event, Rev. Cosby spoke about how helpful these conferences are in encouraging Reformed believers that they are not alone.

The conference is an annual highlight for Mr. Randall Kirkland, who travels each year from St. Louis, MO, and is an elder at Christ Fellowship Bible Church. “The conference has been consistently rewarding in several respects,” he says, “solid Reformed experiential preaching, accessibility to the speakers, and wonderful hospitality.” He says, “All of the speakers very capably addressed the pivotal importance and implications of a Christian mindset or grid through which to process these challenging times, but with varying points of emphasis.” He found Dr. Thomas’s speech on daily life “a powerful overarching perspective that helped to frame the other messages.”

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Dr. Derek Thomas

According to Chris Hanna, Director of Development, organizers were “very happy with the attendance, messages, book sales, and general response from those who attended.”

Speakers included several members of the PRTS faculty. Dr. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics as well as pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids. Dr. Michael Barrett is Vice President for Academic Affairs/Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament as well as a minister in the Heritage Reformed Congregations who serves as the denomination’s Professor of Theology. Dr. Bilkes is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology and is ordained in the Free Reformed Churches. Rev. Kelderman serves as Dean of Students and Spiritual Formation as well as instructor in Pastoral Theology. Dr. Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology and pastors the Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church.

Two speakers serve as ministers at Wayside Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, TN. Rev. Brian Cosby is Senior Pastor as well as Visiting Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Charles Barrett (the son of Dr. Michael Barrett) is Assistant Minister. Both men additionally teach as adjunct professors at Belhaven University in Chattanooga.

Dr. Derek Thomas is the Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Columbia, SC, and the Robert Strong Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries and Dean of its DMin. program.

Plans are being made for the ninth annual conference, The Beauty and Glory of the Reformation, to be held from August 24-27, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 16 & 17 of the November 9, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal. thomas-crowd.jpg

URC seeks right house for worship in DC

 

bldg 2For the last five years, Christ Reformed Church (URCNA) has met for worship in the historic Grace Reformed Church building, located on 15th Street in downtown Washington, DC. Like other Gothic Revival style churches, the building features lofty spires and luminous stained-glass windows. But the architecture stands alone in its sculptural tributes to key places and persons of the Reformation.

About to enter the front of the building, you’d see an arch over the double doors that bears the name “Grace Reformed Church” and depicts Christ’s ascension. You might pause in surprise when you noticed the arch is flanked by shields for the cities of Zurich and Geneva. Lift your eyes higher, above the soaring stained-glass window to the very top of the building’s facade, and you’d see a carved figure holding the coat of arms for Elector Frederick III of the Palatinate, who commissioned the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism.

A Sunday School building echoes the Gothic Revival style as well as the theological emphasis. Dr. Brian Lee, Christ Reformed Church’s minister, calls the building’s outside wall on the south, “Washington DC’s version of the Reformation Wall.” Sculpted elements list Zwingli and Calvin, Bullinger and Beza, Ursinus and Olevianus.

How did the structures come to be embellished with such distinctly Reformed touches? The history page on the church’s website provides the answer. In order to appropriately represent the church’s philosophy, architect Paul J. Pelz studied the history of the Reformed church and became inspired by it. Sculptor James F. Earley incorporated the unique names and symbols, contributing to a final appearance that Pelz believed made Grace Reformed “more artistic than any church in this city.”

pewsThe Reformed Church Messenger, the denomination newsletter, agreed with that assessment while affirming the clarity of the building’s Reformed witness. An article about the church’s dedication in 1903 reported, “In erecting this building the Reformed Church has done an appropriate thing in a beautiful way…. Within and without it is as beautiful and artistic as it is substantial and complete…. It stands as a monument first of all to the power and grace of the kingdom of Jesus Christ but it represents at the same time the history and genius of the Reformed Church….. The style of architecture; the shields of Geneva, Zurich and the Palatinate; the emblems cut into stone arches over the entrances to the church and the memorials in the windows and the chancel, combine to make one harmonious story easily understood by anyone who knows the Reformed church.”

A structure with such Reformed elements seems the perfect place for the newly-organized URC congregation to meet, except for the fact that the building is for sale and Christ Reformed Church needs to find a new meeting location once it sells.

The building belongs to Grace Reformed Church, formerly a Reformed Church in the United States congregation, but now part of the United Church of Christ. The dwindling congregation, composed primarily of elderly parishioners, has realized for some time that it could not continue to maintain the building. In the summer of 2016, the church informed Christ Reformed that current rental arrangements would conclude soon.

FrederickAlthough the owners appear willing for the building to remain a place of worship and encouraged Christ Reformed to put together a proposal, that possibility does not seem likely. Church buildings in the DC area bring a premium sale price because real estate developers are keen to convert them into high-end condominiums or other lucrative secular uses. Because Grace Reformed Church, with its Sunday School building and parish house, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, its value could be even higher than average. While Dr. Lee hates to speculate, recent sales lead him to estimate the building could be sold for around $5 million. He foresees the proceeds being placed into a trust that would eventually benefit UCC charities.

While the loss of this unique location poses extreme challenges to the fledgling congregation, leaders and lay members are embracing the opportunity to assess and solidify the church’s vision and mission.

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Dr. Brian Lee

“This is a blessing,” Dr. Lee says, “especially for a newly-organized church like ours, a precious opportunity to ask anew where the Lord would have us plant our pilgrim flag and how he would have us serve him in this time and place.”

About a dozen volunteers, representing a broad range of the congregation’s demographic, are meeting for prayer and discernment. Part of their task is to determine questions and issues to bring before the entire congregation. Do they want to continue meeting downtown as the only Reformed witness in the city? Or do they want to move out to the suburbs, where most of them live? Do they want to continue focusing exclusively on Sunday worship and fellowship or find a facility that will permit the implementation of mid-week programs? Parking in DC is a problem, and many residents prefer not to drive in or out of the city. Church leaders feel it is important for members of the congregation to have input and play an active role in the important decisions that must be made.

Dr. Lee views this as a two-step process. The first step is figuring out, “How do we want to live our life together?” And the second step follows. “If we do that, what kind of building do we need?”

He explains that doing ministry in the midst of a city with a highly-transitory population is very different from the situation experienced by many URC congregations. Churches in smaller towns often enjoy a “generational aspect” that provides continuity and foundational resources. By trial and error, Christ Reformed Church has been discovering the “little details” that work within its metropolitan context. Although many city churches have updated worship or made compromises in other areas, Dr. Lee believes the congregation remains committed to the priority of worship that centers on the preached Word. Nevertheless, the church faces what he calls a “covenantal renewal moment.”

“This is a big step in the life of our church,” he says. “We’ve always been somewhat ‘accidental’ in our worship space, and we desire now to make a more intentional and long-term commitment in a particular neighborhood with a particular vision.”

Christ Reformed Church began meeting for worship on November 4, 2007, under the supervision of Zeltenreich URC (New Holland, PA). Classis Eastern U.S. concurred with the request for organization on October 14, 2015, and a celebratory worship service was held on January 21, 2016.

The congregation consists of about 70 total souls, although its composition is constantly changing. One family recently moved out of state, but two young women are being instructed toward membership. In addition to Dr. Lee, the church is served by two deacons and an elder. A former elder, who served for many years, continues as a member of the church.

As Christ Reformed Church faces the challenge of what may well be the loss of its historic and unique location, the congregation requests prayer for unity.

“We’re not so much seeking a particular outcome, as we desire spiritual unity through this process,” Dr. Lee says. “And stay tuned to see how the Lord blesses us during this time. He is the Lord of Provision, and we know he will.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 18-20 of the October 12, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.